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Read more VPM News coverage of the historic 2023 elections in Virginia.

Abortion rights motivate voters in competitive Petersburg district

Three people stand at blue and beige voting booths
Ryan M. Kelly
For VPM News
Voters cast their ballots at Jacobs Road Elementary School on Election Day on Tuesday, November 7, 2023 in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

Abortion was the top priority for voters in Petersburg as they headed to the polls on Election Day in an extremely competitive district.

“Even though the other things are important. That's more important than anything,” said Wilma Nedrick. Nedrick said she planned to vote for Kimberly Pope Adams, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Del. Kimberly Taylor.

House District 82 appears to be a close race in Virginia, according to voter data put together by the Virginia Public Access Project. Youngkin won the district in 2021 by 2 percentage points. In last year’s election, voters supported congressional Democrats by a 1% margin, according to VPAP.

It’s a similar situation to other competitive districts listed by VPAP: a swing towards Democrats between the 2021 gubernatorial election and the 2022 congressional election, in the wake of the fall of Roe v. Wade.

There is also data that suggests that whichever party wins this race could control the House of Delegates when the General Assembly convenes in January.

Democrats outperformed Republicans within these borders during the 2022 election, as they did in about half of the other 100 House districts, according to VPAP data.

Brandy Faulkner, a political science professor at Virginia Tech, described the balance of power in Virginia as “very delicate.”

“We know that the governor would like to minimize reproductive health rights in the state of Virginia and he certainly has some support in the General Assembly to do that,” she said. “But he definitely would need a major win in this election to be able to push some of the legislation through.”

Both campaigns have put significant resources into the district, with voters saying they looked forward to the end of the campaign.

It’s an effort to get out the vote, too. Alice Robbins voted mostly based on party identity.

“I've just always been Republican and I stick with that,” she said, also listing veterans issues as a priority for her. “I think if we can get control of the House, some of those things might turn for the better.”

While abortion was the most cited issue in voters that VPM spoke with, they also mentioned gun control and education.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.
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